CO-OP & CONDO RENOVATIONS
Renovating or Remodeling your co-op or condominium apartment can be an eye opening experience if you are not aware of all you need to know about the process. For the most part the biggest mistakes condo and co-op apartment owners make are usually at the very beginning stage of the renovation process. First timers are especially vulnerable to the process. Below, Professional Services provides some insight in regards to the procedures involved in renovating or remodeling a typical co-op, condo apartment from the perspective of this contractor, who has seen it all.
1) The most crucial decisions in the condo, co-op renovation process is selection of the contractor and architect (if an architect is required). You're greatest assets as you enter into the renovation process will be a thorough and professional set of contract documents (blueprints and specifications) drawn up by your architect, and a truly experienced, professional, contractor who is Fully Insured, can provide all the proper Construction Services and is 100% familiar with all phases of your exact type project from soup to nuts. Your greatest vulnerability, on the other hand, would be a weak set of documents and a so-so contractor who charges less money for his services than the right contractor. A weak set of documents from your architect leaves many issues to be resolved during the actual construction of your condo or co-op. A good contractor can catch these short comings and point them out prior to the commencement of any work. A good set of plans and a complete understanding of your particular building is imperative. Weakness in either one of these areas leaves you vulnerable to your contractor's level of expertise and integrity. Having the Right Contracting Company who specializes in condo and co-op remodeling complete your project is a must. Avoid bargain hunting in the selection of your architect and general contractor.
2) Before your architect begins his drawings for your project, make sure he contacts the proper representative of your condominium or co-op to understand what the building will or will not let him do. Also verify the time frames as to when they will let him do it. If you own a condo or co-op apartment in an exclusive building they are likely to be very restrictive in terms of the scope and schedule of construction projects. They may also be very restrictive on who they allow to complete the actual work. Higher end buildings usually want True Professional Contractors. There are many concerns in this area, so it is critical that your architect understands everything from every angle. There may very well be limitations on the existing mechanical systems which will not allow you to do all that you desire. (At least legally). If your contractor is a good one, he can determine these pitfalls for you, should they exist in your particular building.
3) We can not stress the above concerns enough especially if your particular condominium or co-op building insists that you file your project with the Building Department and specifies that your architect will not be allowed to self certify the work. If this is the case, there is a chance that your work will be inspected by them, which means it better be up to code in every way. The actual percentage of work that is filed and ends up being inspected varies from time to time, depending upon the work load and number of inspectors the building department has available to do these actual inspections. Also if you are just purchasing your apartment, be careful of current apartment owners who tell you that you can add a shower in a particular bathroom in a certain area, or a washer and dryer in a particular location. Sometimes they will tell you that the owner of the apartment directly above or below them has these items in their apartment, and they very well may have, but they may not be installed legally, and may not have been inspected at the time of installation by the Department of Buildings. Professional Services assumes that all work which we perform in your apartment is going to be inspected, therefore it is done properly and up to City or town codes.
4) Another crucial step is the bid process. It is critical that you be in charge of this process. You should not leave it up to your architect or designer if you have one. You can speak to 10 different contractors and receive 10 different prices. After you receive the bids from your contractors you must consider all aspects of them, not just the bottom line price. You should compare bid prices in terms of percentages instead of dollars. $30,000 may sound like a lot of money, but if it's only 20 % higher than a less reputable or talented contractor it may give you a false impression as to how great of a deal you are getting with the lower bid contractor. With condo and co-op apartment renovations, a contractor's demonstrable ability to perform the work on schedule should weigh heavily in the final selection. You must carefully check all references provided by contractors by speaking to former clients. Former clients will be glad to discuss what the company has done for them. This is extremely important.
5) If you have selected the right contractor he can prepare a proper contract which protects you and him at the same time. Have your lawyer review any and all contracts prior to signing. Some people let their architect prepare the contract, which is fine if you feel comfortable with that. Regardless of who prepares it, if you are unfamiliar with contracts you should have your lawyer review it before you sign. The main issues to be addressed in the contract are: The total contract amount, Payment schedule, Breakdown of payments and when they are due in relation to completion portions of the work, Time frames for completion of work, Explanation of how change orders are to be handled and costs related to those changes, Who is authorized to approve changes and the costs for same, Lien waivers from any subcontractors, and insurance requirements of your condominium or co-op building.
6) If you have selected a good architect, you have a true professional taking care of your ultimate design, both in concept and execution. Go with what your final decision on the design was. Understand that everybody involved in renovating your apartment is there to do exactly what was planned. If, after you have approved the design and hired a contractor, you start changing things, you will incur additional costs, and add extra time to complete your renovation project.
7) At certain points along the way during your project it is a good idea to set up job meetings between yourself, the general contractor, architect, and any sub contractors that may need to attend at that particular point in time. Everyone involved should take notes at these meetings and review them and the progress made at the next scheduled meeting. This will keep everything and everyone in check.
8) If you see something going on in your apartment that you are concerned with, speak only to the owner of your contracting company, the project superintendent or, your architect who can in turn speak with the contractors representative about the concern.
Verify with your contractor that all materials selected are the actual materials that are being installed. They don't all need to be checked, but a spot check here and there will make certain that you are getting exactly what you ordered and paid for.
9) Completing a condo, co-op renovation project can take more time than a typical project in a private house. You must allow a sufficient amount of time for residential remodeling projects so that you are not forced to rush to completion at the end. Situations may arise during the actual construction that are not in the control of your contractor - holidays where your building is closed to outside contractors, broken service elevators, other shareholders moving either in or out and holding the elevator hostage, other building delays, the client has changes to his or her work, availability of special materials, etc. If you are forced to move in to your incomplete renovated condo or co-op apartment, you will have problems. By rushing, (due to what ever forces that exist for you to do so) puts tremendous pressure on your contractor to rush to complete the work. The minute you decide to do this, you simply destroy the final outcome of your project. All the finish work suffers. If you force your contractor to try and meet an out of reach schedule to accommodate your needs, or order some materials that have a long lead time, without question in the end no one will be happy.
10) Have your architect make sure that he submits for all final approvals from the city or town. It is the architect's responsibility to obtain the final sign off on your job, not your contractors. Your contractors final payment has nothing to do with this final sign off obtained by your architect. Have your contractor supply you with all lien waivers from subcontractors if necessary. Make sure you have all warranties and operating manuals for appliances and any other equipment that was installed, and a 100 % complete punch list before you make your last payment.